Nutritional Assessment Methods: A Guide for First-Time Food Manufacturers
Being a new food manufacturer is exciting, but there’s also a lot to learn. You have to figure out how to perfect your product, how to market it, how to get it packaged, and of course, how to get accurate nutrition information for it.
While you undoubtedly have a lot to juggle at once, let’s tackle one of those tasks—how to obtain accurate nutrition information for your product. There are two nutritional assessment methods you will have to decide between: food lab analysis and database analysis. To help you figure out the best kind of analysis for your product, let’s take a closer look at your options.
Comparing Nutritional Assessment Methods: Food Lab Analysis vs. Database Analysis
Food lab analysis and nutritional database analysis each come with different pros and cons. Since the FDA permits the use of both for food manufacturers, you have the freedom to choose which one is best for you and your product. Here’s the breakdown:
Food Lab Analysis
Food lab analysis is just like it sounds—it is chemical analysis of your food done in a lab. If you choose food lab analysis, you will have to package and send your product away to a lab. As you can imagine, chemical analysis produces very accurate results for the particular sample you sent in, but it doesn’t account for variations in your product. For example, the nutritional value of produce can change significantly from season to season depending on where it was grown. Also, if you alter your product in any way, you will have to resubmit your samples again and redo the entire analysis.
Of course, this isn’t ideal because food lab analysis is expensive. Depending on the lab, it can cost as much as $800 per sample. Not only is it pricey, but it is also a time-consuming method of analysis. Typically, it takes up to a month to receive the results of the analysis.
Using a food lab to analyze your product is, however, necessary if your product is deep fried (i.e. potato chips) or highly processed (i.e. spray cheese). This is because only chemical lab analysis can accurately measure the amount of oil that transferred to the product during deep frying, as well as other major chemical changes that will affect nutritional values.
Nutritional Database Analysis
Nutritional database analysis, on the other hand, doesn’t require you to send in samples of your product. Instead, you will use your product recipe to determine the nutritional value. All you do is use the nutritional database to find the ingredients in your product, enter the amount of each, and your results are instantly generated.
It sounds like magic, but databases contain thousands of ingredients with pre-calculated nutrition values that have been collected through rigorous lab analysis of several samples over a period of time. The ingredients in the database include all forms of a given ingredient (i.e. raw vs. cooked), which means any nutrient loss that occurs during cooking is accounted for.
The cost of database nutrition analysis depends on the specific method you choose. Essentially, there are three options. The first, hiring an independent consultant who analyzes your product for you, can be quite pricey (around $400 per analysis). The second, CD-ROM nutrition analysis, appears less expensive but often comes with hidden costs and can be tricky to use. The third option, online database nutrition analysis, is by far the most affordable option at around $225 per product.
Features of Online Database Nutrition Analysis
Online database nutrition analysis is not only cheaper than any other form of nutrition analysis, but it is also much easier to use. Plus, the best software will come with a lot of great features that are incredibly useful for food manufacturers.
Some of the top features of online database nutrition analysis include:
- Up-to-Date FDA Nutrition Facts Panel Template: Not all online nutrition analysis software is created equal. The best ones, like LabelCalc, are FDA-compliant which means you don’t have to worry about the complicated FDA guidelines to do with label size requirements or rounding rules. Instead, you can rest assured that everything will be put together properly.
- A USDA-Compiled Ingredient Database: The best thing about USDA-compiled databases is that they provide highly accurate nutrition analysis of ingredients. Look for a software featuring upwards of 18,000 pre-analyzed ingredients, as this will make it easy to find all the ingredients in your recipe.
- Expert Labeling Consultants: Most first-time food manufacturers have questions about food labeling, nutrient content claims, and the nutrition analysis process itself. Online database nutrition analysis software like LabelCalc has expert food labeling consultants that can answer questions and provide guidance for those who need it. Plus, if you don’t want to do the analysis yourself, they can do it for you!
I hope this has helped give you a better idea of what kind of nutrition analysis to use for your product. If you have to use a food lab because your product is fried, make sure you do your research to find one that is affordable. Otherwise, online database nutrition analysis is certainly the way to go—especially for new food manufacturers with limited budgets. You’ll be surprised how quick and easy it is to create your nutrition facts panels. Before you know it, you’ll be ready to pitch your product to retail stores. And once you do, the possibilities for your business are endless.
LabelCalc is an affordable, user-friendly, industry-leading online database nutrition analysis software. To start analyzing your product, get in touch with us today.